Monday, July 01, 2013

Searching for Allan Dwan (A Dialogue with Kevin Brownlow)

Alla ricerca di Allan Dwan. Dialogo con Kevin Brownlow. Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 1 July 2013

Peter von Bagh introduced Kevin Brownlow whose Allan Dwan lecture was based on eight clips or outtakes from the Hollywood series.

Kevin Brownlow knew Allan Dwan well. As a young collector he had gotten acquainted with his Douglas Fairbanks films such as American Aristocracy and Manhattan Madness - "the panache, the exhilarating pace", the editing style, the things no one else dared do. Of the lost films "The Big Brother is the biggest loss, called a classic by James Quirk at the time. The highest paid stars wanted to work for Dwan." Kevin Brownlow showed clips about both Allan Dwan and Gloria Swanson reminiscining of their films together.

Allan Dwan "tended to exaggerate the number of the pictures he made, but in his tales he was generally more accurate than Raoul Walsh, and some of his incredible sounding stories can be verified."

Allan Dwan hated the producer system; in his view the interfering supervisors were "mostly relatives" of the bosses.

Clip 6 was about Evelyn Nesbit's film career, entirely based on the notoriety of the 1906 Harry Thaw - Stanford White scandal.

In the sound era Dwan's "opportunities diminished", until in 1958 he "could not stand it any more". Yet still in the 1970s he was planning a film adaptation of The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Kevin Brownlow quoted some of Allan Dwan's correspondence with him about that.

Finally, for him, the collaboration with Douglas Fairbanks was "the most enjoyable". They were kindred spirits, and in the great stunt sequences Fairbanks had "the grace of a ballet dancer". There was a superb montage of them in the conclusion.

I have Peter Bogdanovich's Allan Dwan book as my travel reading, and I was amused to hear the same stories almost verbatim in Kevin Brownlow's clips.

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